🦠 COVID-19 | Tech solutionism is not the solution | 🤕 2,247,753 | Deaths 154,088 

I am a scientist by education, banker at JPMorgan for a few years, then mature PhD student in Chemical Biology at Oxford under the supervision of Christofer Schofield (FRS) and Peter Ratcliffe (Nobel laureate in medicine in 2019). Founder and tech investor focusing on media and education. I care about science, learning and Democracy which are good bedfellows.

📊 Daily Data Brief: 

2,247,753 cumulative cases

Active cases: 1,439,357   (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  154,088 

Serious/Critical Cases:  56,934 

Recovered:  570,774

Source: Worldometers

Death curves (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available (Link)

A very rich edition today.

Another critical assessment at the ‘encouraging’ severe trial of remdesivir reported yesterday. Caitlin Rivers guides us on both responsible reporting and reopening. Longer term Mary Meeker sees renewal while Evgeny Morozov sees the possibility of darker days. A bigger section on contact tracing and the anticipated tension between Google-Apple and governments looking to implement contact tracing .

South Korea shows everyone The Playbook and we celebrate the forgotten female Scottish scientist who discovered coronaviruses.

💡Tweet of the day: Wisdom from Caitlin Rivers who has done some of the best reporting and work on COVID19.

💊 Video of the day: Scott Gottlieb (former FDA director) commenting on remdesivir which the Corona Daily covered yesterday with encouraging data from 125 severe patients in Michigan. Gottlieb believes that if the data continues to trend positively the drug could be made available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) within one month.

🏛 Caitlin Rivers et al. publish “Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors”. It is a follow up to their “National Coronavirus Response:A Road Map to Reopening” report published by the American Enterprise Institute.

It provides a framework for state governors in the US to re-open. It restates pre-conditions on re-opening that it had published in its previous report. It then looks at risk factors of different community and economic activities with the corresponding appropriate mitigating actions to enable reopening.

A good framework for governors, but also for citizens to understand what is likely to come with regards to school re-opening, communal activities risk and when they are likely to return to work.

Very helpful for what to expect. (Link)

📈 Dan Primark publishes an “Exclusive: Mary Meeker's coronavirus trends report” for Axios. Mary Meeker is known for her annual “Internet Trend Reports”. This coronavirus special is very tech centric and focuses more on the anti-fragility of the US than on the weaknesses COVID19 has exposed. It sees this crisis as being a new dawn for the country.

“While we have trepidations about what the coming months and quarters may have in store, for the long-term, we remain in the ‘darkest before dawn’ camp. We have been trained not to underestimate America’s global advantages, her spirit and optimism...and ability to rapidly innovate and help make the world a better place.

What if?

What if Covid-19 serves as a common enemy that unites and serves as a forcing function to:

1) Modernize and improve government / healthcare / education driving lower cost and more efficiency

2) Improve coordination between government and business for the good of citizens

3) Help people find jobs (and training) best suited to their skills and lifestyles

4) Promote more considered consumption

5) Get back to basics including staying closer to home

6) Bolster family connectedness / seriousness of purpose / community / faith?

None of what we are going through is comfortable, or fair. And while things will likely get worse before they get better, has America, perhaps, just gotten the wake-up call it needed to get to a better place?"

To read in conjunction with the Morozov piece in next section below (Link)

🦠 Antonio Regalado writes “Up to 4% of Silicon Valley is already infected with coronavirus” for the MIT Technology review. Regalado reports on a serological study in Santa Clara just published in MedRxiv. The study estimated that between 2.5% and 4.2% of the Santa Clara population got infected:

“These prevalence estimates represent a range between 48,000 and 81,000 people infected in Santa Clara County by early April, 50-85-fold more than the number of confirmed cases.”

These are the first surveys to come out, showing the likely number of people infected by the virus and will better inform mortality rate and epidemic projections going forward. This prevalence is very far from the 55%+ level required to attain herd immunity. (Link)

🇰🇷 The Republic of South Korea published: “How Korea responded to a pandemic using ICT - Flattening the curve on COVID-19”. South Korea has often been cited as best in class in responding to the epidemic. This is a comprehensive and clear report on what the country did focusing in particular on its use of technology. It is worth noting that surveillance is much more accepted in South Korea than in most Western democracies. (Link)

👩‍🔬 Sydney Combs writes “She discovered coronaviruses decades ago—but got little recognition” for National Geographic. It recounts and celebrates the Scottish female scientist June Almeida who discovered coronaviruses in 1964. Just before her death in 2007 and at the age of 77, Almeida return to St. Thomas's Hospital Medical School in London to help publish some of the first images of HIV. As the saying says better late then never, but it does appear that female scientists have often been in Almeida’s position. There is a very good special report “Women in Science” in the Smithsonian Magazine on the topic. (Link)

🚔 The contact tracing corner: In the wake of the Apple-Google partnership on privacy preserving contact tracing, I wrote a Medium post “Time to think about our tech dependencies” (opening the Corona Daily that day with the same title). I anticipated tensions between democracies and a duopoly which controls 99.29% of the mobile operating system market:

“So Apple and Google did not do their own app, but decided instead to be the servient technology enablers of government epidemiology surveillance. It is a Faustian pact and it is actually not clear who is on what side in this.”

I also questioned whether this pact could lead to normalisation of surveillance and push government (particularly outside the US) to rethink their tech dependencies. Below are a few articles nearly a week after the announcement:

🏛 Evgeny Morozov writes “The tech ‘solutions’ for coronavirus take the surveillance state to the next level” for the Guardian. It is by far the most ambitious and thought provoking article today.

In opposition to Mary Meeker, Morozov is less optimistic about COVID19 being a catalyst for change, and kicks off the article with:

“Many thinkers have expressed hope that it will usher in a more humane economic system; others warn that the pandemic heralds a darker future of techno-totalitarian state surveillance.”

COVID19 might have exposed the limits of neo-liberalism, with two of its champions - the US and the UK likely to end up with the worse fatalities. Morozov argues that tech “solutionism” provides ongoing resilience to neo-liberalism by avoiding politics and capitalism’s end might not be as near as some hope. For him, the contact tracing is one such occurrence.

“If neoliberalism is a proactive ideology, solutionism is a reactive one: it disarms, disables and discards any political alternatives. Neoliberalism shrinks public budgets; solutionism shrinks public imagination.”

Morozov’s article is reminiscent of Slovenian philosopher’s RSA animate on cultural capitalism, picturing charities as the ancestor of technological solutionism. In a sense both Morozov and Zizek encourage the critical thinking and solidarity which Harendt advocate in Amor Mundi (yesterday’s Corona daily) to effect change.

Morozov urges an urgent course change to protect our Democracy:

“Our first order of business should be to chart a post-solutionist path – one that gives the public sovereignty over digital platforms.”

As the articles below will show, it looks like government have started to asserts their sovereignty over Google-Apple’s self proclamation as the World Privacy Organisation. This might not be necessarily good news for the public. (Link)

🇪🇺 Natasha Lomas writes “Europe’s PEPP-PT COVID-19 contacts tracing standard push could be squaring up for a fight with Apple and Google” for TechCrunch.

The best part is the quote from the PEPP-PT lead coordinator and spokesman Chris Boos:

“We very much appreciate that Google and Apple are stepping up to making the operating system layer available — or putting what should be the OS actually there, which is the Bluetooth measurement and the handling of crypto and the background running of such tasks which have to keep running resiliently all the time — if you look at their protocols and if you look at whom they are provided by, the two dominant players in the mobile ecosystem, then I think that from a government perspective especially, or from lots of government perspectives, there are many open points to discuss” 


🇬🇧 Alex Hearn writes “NHS in standoff with Apple and Google over coronavirus tracing” for the Guardian. Although NHSX downplayed the ‘standoff’, there is no smoke without fire. (Link)

🇪🇺 Nadim Kobeissi (a cryptographer and computer security experts) writes “An Investigation Into PEPP-PT” as the consortium goes through a challenging period. (Link)

🎬 Sweden: a case of irresponsible journalism

There is a great twitter Thread started by Caitlin Rivers and including an early opinion on “How to Report on the COVID-19 Outbreak Responsibly”. Sweden has offered a playground for journalists not to heed this responsibility.

🇸🇪 “Swedish Experts: why lockdowns are the wrong policy” (Video Link)

This interview is in the category which Caitlin Rivers pointed out in her Tweet of the day. There is a difference between having a debate and sensationalism journalism. The timing and title of the above video are particularly bad and dangerous, as the lockdowns have shown their positive effect around the world. Unherd is a relatively new outfit. Reputation matters.

🇸🇪 Mark Brolin writes “Sweden has shown how not to tackle coronavirus, as it fights now to save face” for the Telegraph. Here is a chilling quote from the article:

“This was a widely held view because, in consensus-oriented Sweden, no other views were taken seriously, until death rates started creeping up. Finland now counts 72 dead, Norway 150 and Denmark (the by far most densely populated Nordic country) 321. Sweden? 1333. Moreover, the Coronavirus has spread to a large number of retirement homes. Why? Because carers have proven to have little or no protective equipment, thereby making nonsense of the claim that the low level of intergenerational mixing in Sweden would protect the elderly.”

UK almost went down the same path and changed its mind. (Link)

📊 A picture is worth a thousand words:  Global (🌎) and local (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool

  1. 💊(NEW❗️) The "Map of Hope" provides a geographical overview of planned, ongoing and completed clinical trials. It is put together with data from WHO Clinical Trials Search Portal by the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation technology. (Link)

  2. 🌍 MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis started to publish weekly death estimates for countries (Link)

  3. 🇺🇸 The US Center for Disease Control and Surveillance (CDC) publishes “A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity” (Link)

  4. Google has published a new website to “See how your community is moving around differently due to COVID-19”. They have a lot of data to do so… (Link)

  5. 🌎 The Financial Times has a data tracking page which is in front of the paywall, looking at cases and fatality curves for selective countries and metropolitan areas/region. It is not as extensive as the Madlag link below, where you can see static as well as animated images for a greater number of individual countries. (Link)

  6. 🇺🇸/🌍 The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington (UW). It has put out a simulation for the US (overall and by state) of what is the expected shortfall in health capacity (bed, ICU, ventilators) and when is the expected peak of the epidemic for each state. It has now added countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). A valuable resource. (Link)

  7. 🇺🇸Another valuable resource by Unacast ( a data company providing human mobility insights). Their “Social distancing scoreboard looks and compares (State by State and County by County), the change in mobility to prior to COVID19 (Link)

  8. 🌎 Country by Country Curves: This is a GitHub made by my friend Francois Lagunas. He has written a script to scrape deaths and number of cases in order to visualise the rate of growth on a logarithmic scale.  Great resource (Link)

  9. CityMapper has started to produce City Mobility Index to show how much a City is moving. This is a very good indicator of how well lockdowns are respected around the world: Barcelona (4% of city moving) at one end and St Petersburg at the other end (68% of city moving) for yesterday (Link)

  10. 🌎A great resource put together by Ben Kuhn and Yuri Vishnevsky.  At a time when we need solidarity and cooperation, I prefer their subtitle “We need stronger measures, much faster” than their title. It’s a simulator on what case growth looks like depending on your community’s measures. Fantastic resource to stir communities and governments to action (Link)

  11. 🇩🇪 The COVID19 dashboard for Germany is one of the best around. (Link)

  12. 🌎A helpful guide by VOX of the “9 coronavirus pandemic charts everyone should see” (Link)

  13. 🌎Data and chart regularly updated by the  Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It maps the effective reproduction number (also known as R0) of COVID19. You want to get it below 1 as fast as possible to contain an epidemic. (Link to see charts and more data about your country)

  14. 🌎This is a great COVID19 Dashboard prepared by Andrzej Leszkiewicz. Andrzej has also written an introductory and explanatory blog for it (“Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fatality rate: WHO and media vs logic and mathematics”). I particularly like the country comparison tab, which allows you to track and benchmark the curve of the epidemic (number of cases and deaths) in your country with that of another. Very well done and informative. (Link)

  15. Going Critical” by Kevin Simler is a detailed interacting essay talking about complex systems, the importance of understanding networks, modelling and how this applies to: memes, infectious diseases, herd immunity, wildfire, neutrons and culture. Must read (Link

  16. 🇸🇬/🌎 Singapore remains the gold standard of dashboard. Here is an article with the Best and Worst of all dashboard in the world, with Pros and Cons prepared by Neel V. Patel for MIT Technology (Article)

🏛  Notable tracking projects 

  1. 💊 “COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker”.  This tracker contains an aggregation of publicly-available information from validated sourcesby the Milken Institute (Link)

  2. 🏛Tariq Krim has started a COVID19 website tracking data about each government policy response to the pandemic (Link)

  3. 🏛Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) was launched yesterday. Data is collected from public sources by a team of dozens of Oxford University students and staff from every part of the world. It also looks at stringency of the measures and plots stringency with case curves. A great initiative and resource (Link)

  4. 👩‍💻Mike Butcher (Editor at Large Techcrunch and founder of TechforUK), had refocused TechforUK on the fight against COVID19. It is a very effective hands-on team of volunteer. Do reach out to them. He has also teamed up with We are now working closely with the volunteers behind the “Coronavirus Tech Handbook”. (They are ‘cousins’ of ours who originally created the Electiontechhandbook). Volunteer collaboration at its best! (Link)

📰 Cronycle resource:

Cronycle has made available a number of open-access feeds on its website which I extensively use for the Corona Daily. The four first feeds are:

1.  COVID-19 General (Link

2.  COVID-19 x Resilience (Link)  

3.  COVID-19 x HCQ/CQ (Link)  (HydroxyChloroquine and Chloroquine)

4. Gig Economy x COVID-19 (Link

And I have added a new feed below

5. Supply Chain x COVID-19 (Link)

  1. NEW❗️Human Rights x COVID-19 (Link)

I will write more in the future on how you can leverage Cronycle for keeping up to date in between two editions of this newsletter. (Link)

Here is a blog post from Valerie Pegon at Cronycle: “Grow knowledge about Covid-19, not anxiety!” (Link)

🎬  The Grant Sanderson permanent video corner:

  1. Exponential growth and epidemics 

This is an excellent video explaining “exponential growth” and epidemics. Although we are all familiar with the phrase, its authors rightly says that “yet human intuition has a hard time recognising what it means”. This is a ❗️MUST WATCH❗️to understand fully what is upon us but also how early behavioural changes at scale can have a massive impact on the level of exponential growth of COVID19 (Link)

  1. Simulating an Epidemic

This is the second video by Grant Sanderson looking at simulating an epidemic under different physical distancing measures. (Link)